4 simple but awesome ways a mom uses old crayons to improve the world.

The Crayon Collection shows the world how valuable used crayons can be to the lives of children.

While most parents notice how picky their 2-year-olds are when it comes to restaurant food, one mom noticed how picky her toddler was with something else.

Whenever Sheila Morovati took her daughter to eat at restaurants, she discovered an odd trend. Like most 2-year-olds, her little one would hardly use the crayons given to her before moving onto something else.

"After one or two lines drawn, the crayons would fall to the floor or get pushed to the other side of the table," Sheila told me. "The other parents with young kids experienced the same thing."


If you visit any kid-friendly restaurants, crayons on the floor will be a common sight.

But that's only part of the story. These virtually unused crayons would be placed in the trash, never to be seen again. Sheila wasn't feeling that at all. 

"Crayons are valuable," Sheila said. "I know that many students and teachers would yearn for them."

On top of that, teachers have to shell out what little money they have to buy school supplies, and wasted crayons are just another unnecessary item taking up space in landfills. 

That's all of the inspiration Sheila needed to create the Crayon Collection

"Simply put, the Crayon Collection collects lightly used crayons and redistributes them to teachers and throughout the community," Sheila said.

But this is no smalltime endeavor. The organization is currently in five countries, along with hundreds of restaurants and schools worldwide.

One of the thousands of gift boxes the Crayon Collection donates to schools every year. Photo from Sheila Morovati, used with permission.

That's wonderful and all, but you may be thinking, "Wait a minute ... this seems familiar. Isn't there already something like this out there?" 

Another organization called the Crayon Initiative does a whole lot of good by donating crayons to children in hospitals, but the Crayon Collection is a different animal altogether. 

Here are four things that make this organization so cool.

1. They get crayons in the hands of young kids at schools.

Sheila's organization partners with the National Head Start Association to provide crayons to 1 million of America's most vulnerable children.

"There are thousands of Head Start schools in our nation, and sadly many of the children don't have much more than the clothes on their backs," Sheila said. The Crayon Collection provides these children with crayons so they can use them at school or at home. 

This little boy was fascinated by twistable crayons, so Sheila showed him how they work. Photo from Sheila Morovati, used with permission.

2. They partner with big restaurant chains to ensure no crayon goes to waste.

Denny's restaurant is one of the biggest chains that the Crayon Collection partners with. Sheila's team gives Denny's employees information on how to properly handle the crayons so nearby schools can pick them up easily. 

"Denny's participation is truly inspiring and motivating," Sheila said. "We hope that the program will be adopted in other kid-friendly restaurants everywhere." 

3. They show kids that giving is better than receiving.

This is one of Sheila's favorite aspects of her program. For example, she has a group of children in California who visit some of the state's highest-poverty schools to donate crayons. 

"We teach kids in better-served communities a wonderful lesson in philanthropy, and they love it." 

A group of young kids in Santa Monica, California, collect and organize crayons to deliver to kids in need. Photo from Sheila Morovati, used with permission.

She isn't kidding. Studies have shown that children who give to others are generally happier.

Contrary to popular belief, kids actually enjoy giving to others. GIF from the Crayon Collection.

4. They created a crayon curriculum without any additional cost to the school districts.

Thanks to a suggestion from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Crayon Collection started a "crayon curriculum" for all recipient schools — and it doesn't cost the schools a dime. 

A crayon curriculum that doesn't cost schools anything? That's a win-win. Photo by Sheila Morovati, used with permission.

"Local artists have provided amazing ideas for projects so that the crayons can be used a tool for deeper learning," Sheila said.

For example, an artist named Annie Lapin created a project where kids circle a specific capital letter in a newspaper (S, for example, in the image below) and draw lines to connect each one. Afterward, the kids will color the image and create an animal. 

What a creative way for kids to use crayons!

Kids love crayons. The Crayon Collection ensures as many kids as possible can get some.

Sheila offered a few parting words on why this program means so much to her:

"We really feel that the scalability of our model is why we have been able to work with people from all over the world and create so much happiness and joy for kids who really need a little color in their lives."

And nothing is more colorful than the smiles of happy children. 

Color + kids = happiness. GIF from Crayon Connection, used with permission.

Be sure to check out the Crayon Collection's website to learn how you can be a part of the action!

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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